Terminal cancer patients in finish remission after one gene therapy treatment

A groundbreaking gene therapy treatment which boosts a patient’s own immune cells has been shown to clear disease from one third of terminal patients.

US pharmaceutical company Kite Pharma released results from the very first six months of its trial of the fresh treatment, called CAR-T cell therapy.

Some thirty six per cent of the one hundred one patients on the trial were still in finish remission at six months, and eight in ten eyed their cancer shrink by at least half during the explore.

“The numbers are fantastic,” said Dr Fred Locke, a blood cancer pro at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa who co-led the explore.

“These are intensely treated patients who have no other options.”

T he treatment, which has been dubbed ‘a living drug’ by doctors, works by filtering a patient’s blood to eliminate key immune system cells called T-cells, which are then genetically engineered in the lab to recognise cancer cells.

Cancer cells are very good a evading the immune system, but the fresh therapy essentially cuts the brakes, permitting immune cells to do their job decently.

Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK’s head cancer information nurse, said: “These results are promising and suggest that one day CAR-T cells could become a treatment option for some patients with certain types of lymphoma.

“But, we need to know more about the side effects of the treatment and long term benefits.”

P atients in the examine had one of three types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer which affects 13,600 patients in Britain, and had failed all other treatments. Most patients with such an advanced condition only live for six months but half of the trial group are still alive nine months since the trial began, and a third may be cured.

D imas Padilla, 43, of Orlando, who was warned his case was worsening after chemotherapy stopped working, is now in finish remission after undergoing the therapy last August.

After learning his cancer was most likely terminal he said: “I was thinking how am I going to tell this to my mother, my wifey, my children,” he said.

After CAR-T therapy he witnessed his tumours “shrink like ice cubes” and is now in finish remission.

“They were able to save my life,” Mr Padilla added.

H owever there are still concerns that the treatment has significant side effects, and can even kill some patients, as it puts the immune system into a state of over-drive. During the trial two people died from the therapy, rather than their cancer.

O f the explore participants, thirteen per cent developed a dangerous condition where the immune system overreacts in fighting the cancer, and harshly a third of patients developed anaemia or other blood-count-related problems.

Almost one third also reported neurological problems such as sleepiness, confusion, tremor or difficulty speaking, but these typically lasted just a few days.

F ull results will be introduced at the American Association for Cancer Research conference in April and the company plans to seek approval from European regulators later this year.

“It’s a safe treatment, certainly a lot safer than having progressive lymphoma,”said the cancer institute’s Dr Steven Rosenberg,

Other companies, such as Juno Therapeutics, have had to halt trials into CAR-T treatments following patient deaths.

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